Trending now: Misusing prescription drugs

bought or received the drugs from a relative or friend and were more likely to misuse other drugs.

Overall, women misused prescription drugs less than men in all age categories excluding adolescents aged 12 to 17.

Adolescent females surpassed males in non-medical use of all prescription drug types and are more likely to fit the criteria for substance use disorder with prescription meds. Although men are more likely to die from a prescription opioid overdose, overdose rates for women are increasing sharply.

Several studies have also associated prescription drug abuse with an increased risk of using tobacco, cocaine, cannabis, heavy drinking and other illicit drugs among adolescents and young adults.

In older adults, more than 80 percent of patients aged 57 to 85 reported using at least one prescription drug daily, with more than 50 percent taking five or more supplements or medications per day. A large percentage also used dietary supplements and over-the-counter medicines which, in addition to alcohol, could worsen health-related issues that arise from non-medical use of prescriptions drugs.

“There are particular populations that we are worried about,” Baler said. “For the adult population, we see a dramatic increase; the trends continue to be really worrisome.”

Tragic consequences

Stimulants: “Stimulants like Adderall belong in the same category as cocaine, so you’re talking about a drug that potentially has abuse and addiction liability, particularly when misused by young people who have not been prescribed this drug for a proper diagnosis of ADHD,” Baler said.

Opiates: “A percentage of people who are chronically prescribed opiates become tolerant, then they start ‘doctor shopping’ [visiting various physicians to receive multiple prescriptions or a medical opinion that they want to hear],” Baler said. “That starts a chain of events in the brain that becomes physically dependent.”

Depressants: “Many people take them with alcohol just to enhance the sedative properties of this drug, and this interaction can be very powerful and put you at risk of risky behavior like driving or engaging in dangerous sex,” Baler said.

NIDA’s report revealed that an excess of 80 percent of Americans visited a healthcare professional in the past year, allowing physicians to identify non-medical use of prescription meds and take preventative measures to deescalate a potential path toward substance use disorders.

“Medications are very powerful and potent aids in the healing process for all sorts of ailments both physical and mental,” Baler said. Yet, “there’s this myth that if something is prescribed by a doctor, it must be safe, but nothing can be farther from the truth.”